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Data is now the secret sauce of businesses – but it has to work for consumers

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wright Studio)

The secret sauce that has propelled the tech giants – from Facebook to Google – to the highly vaulted position they’re in now is data.

And not just any data – your data. According to a recent study of consumers by Veeam, UK consumers now value their data at £27,000. For many, that sum equals a deposit for a house or a three-year University education.

The personal affiliation we have with our data has mostly grown out of headline-hitting scandals and as such, our recent research highlights that consumer trust in organisations to look after their data has plummeted.

While not all businesses that hold data are looking to monetise it, the expectation from consumers now is for organisations to both protect and use it – all for the benefit of the consumer.

Faced with this conundrum, what should businesses do? Keep data safe and ensure it’s always available – here’s how.

Time to backup plan A

Previously, data management was built with the 9-to-5 business in mind, with basic processes in place. Now, as organisations migrate to modern, always-on data centres, it’s imperative that businesses understand the data they hold, where it is located, and who has access to it.

What’s more, there is a profound shift taking place as businesses race to keep pace with the fourth industrial revolution. It’s not just about the sale of a product, its about providing value-added services to customers, and that means many businesses have moved to more customer-centric, data heavy business models.

The importance of backing up, and – more importantly –recovery, is sometimes overlooked. But with these shifts in business structures and consumer expectations taking place, IT departments now need to show consumers that they’re using their data responsibly. Both for their benefit and in the pursuit of an always-on service.

Being able to access the right data at the right time and recover it when it’s lost or damaged can determine the success of a business. Building strong digital foundations that centre on data availability is vital to the future of every organisation.

And yet, the 2019 Veeam Cloud Data Management Report showed that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of businesses recognise that they still are unable to meet users’ demands for uninterrupted access to applications and data. This gap is causing business-critical challenges, from damage to customer confidence and brand integrity, right through to losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds an hour.

It doesn’t matter if loss or lack of access to data is caused by hardware failure or a cyber-attack, or even an employee gone rogue. Customers will not care about what caused an issue; they will want to know their data is protected and that they’re still able to use services and applications as normal, without interruption, and that requires data availability.

In the event of data becoming compromised, the IT department is under immense pressure to minimise the impact on employees and customers as much as possible. But this isn’t something that should be left once the sky is falling. It requires continuous effort.

And it’s not just in the case of a disaster when backup becomes important. In the advent of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), consumers can request to view their personal data at any time. Businesses have a maximum of one month to respond to these requests, but in a world of instant-delivery, real-time news and immediate feedback – customers will expect a seamless and quick process.

Eat. Sleep. Backup. Repeat.

The biggest threat to data availability is an outage across a company’s IT provision. Given the complexity of data management ecosystems, with many businesses now exploring hybrid IT and multi-cloud strategies, IT departments have more plates to keep spinning than ever before.

This can be a positive. In the age of the cloud, businesses are not reliant on a single point of failure and can create virtual backups to remote locations for every packet of data they produce. But this has to be balanced against the privacy protocols and value of certain data, as well as considerations such as budgetary constraints and business priorities.

To strike that balance, businesses can ensure that data is available at all times by implementing a thorough Cloud Data Management strategy. This should involve the following five steps:

1.            Backup — Protect all workloads using backups, complemented by snapshots and replication where appropriate, to ensure they are always recoverable in the event of outages, attack, loss, or theft.

2.            Cloud Mobility – Provide easy portability and fast recovery of any on-premises or cloud-based workloads (including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure) to maintain business continuity and Availability across hybrid-cloud environments.

3.            Visibility — View the full breadth of your data, accompanied by the infrastructure that it passes through and resides on, so that you can pivot from reactive to proactive management for better business decisions.

4.            Orchestration — Optimise data utilisation across multi-cloud environments with workflows that ensure consistent execution of otherwise manual and complex data-management tasks.

5.            Automation — Data becomes self-managing by learning to protect itself with appropriate service level agreements (SLAs), methods, and locations to meet business objectives or comply with broader IT initiatives.

A must for modern enterprises

Backups need to be running as and when data is altered to ensure that the fundamental information and systems on which the business relies can be recovered to the state they were in when an outage or fault occurs. Solutions such as Backup-as-a-service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) provide continuous protection to guarantee business continuity. Using op-ex based pricing, the ‘x-as-a-service’ model allows businesses to pay for services based on what they use, rather than making restrictive capital investments up-front which lead to IT wastage. Crucially, organisations need to see their backup and recovery services as a critical part of their wider data management and cloud strategy.

Consumers are reclaiming data, and so it’s more important than ever for organisations to review whether their backup and recovery strategy is built to seamlessly handle the unexpected. Fortunately, business leaders are beginning to understand the strategic and competitive importance of gaining more control and reliability over their IT systems, protecting and managing their data, and are taking proactive steps to continuously test and improve their strategies. Given that the demands on data availability in the digital business continue to evolve, having a future-proofed infrastructure is a must for modern enterprises.

Mark Adams, Regional VP, UK & Ireland, Veeam